National › No. of foreign workers in Japan expected to top 1 mil this year

TOKYO —

The number of foreigners working in Japan is expected to top 1 million for the first time this year as the nation moves toward utilizing their labor power more, especially in nursing care and housekeeping fields, government sources said Saturday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government basically does not allow immigration for permanent settlement, but it has been promoting an increase in foreign workers on the back of calls from the business community to make it easier to hire foreign personnel amid a falling population and globalization of business.

The projection compares with some 910,000 as of the end of last October.

The government is planning to set up an advisory panel at the premier’s office to compile the nation’s basic policy to address a decline in population, including a labor shortage.

A new growth strategy to be drawn up by the government in May or June is expected to confirm the need to promote employment of high-skilled foreign workers and reviewing an on-the-job-training program for those from emerging economies, the sources said.

The number of foreign workers in Japan has been on the rise in recent years. As of last October, people from China accounted for the largest 35.5% of total foreign workforce in Japan, followed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Brazil. The number of Nepalese workers has also increased sharply.

The most common employers of them are small or midsize manufacturers. But major Japanese companies in the service sector have increased foreign employees.

Around 30 percent of the total foreign workers are employed in Tokyo, and the next common workplaces are the central prefecture of Aichi—home to Toyota Motor Corp.—and Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party launched a committee in March to explore ways to cope with a labor shortage. Ideas being discussed include the introduction of a new resident status to allow foreigners without any special skills to work in Japan, or easing requirements to enable such people to become part of the labor force in Japan, the sources said.

Efforts have been under way to expand the foreign workforce in Japan. For instance, the Diet is now deliberating a bill to add “nursing care” to the category of reasons to grant resident status, in addition to the currently allowed purposes such as carrying out “diplomacy” and “study.”

Japanese immigration law does not give resident status to foreigners seeking to work as housekeepers. But such workers became eligible if they are employed by operators that clear certain requirements under a revised law on special deregulation zones that took effect last September.

People in the related industry are now making preparations for removal of the ban on housekeeping services by foreigners in Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures, designated as special strategic districts.

The government is also expected to expand support for foreigners seeking to work in the areas of information and technology, as well as tourism.

© KYODO

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